The defamation case filed by MJ Akbar against journalist Priya Ramani over sexual harassment case, which was one of the most prominent cases in the Me Too movement in India, has been posted for further hearing on 6 July and will be heard in Delhi's Rouse Avenue court. The case came up before Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal on Monday.
Akbar was cross-examined by Ramani's advocate Rebecca John. The hearing on Monday saw a heated exchange between the two senior advocates " Akbar's counsel Geeta Luthra and John " as Luthra objected many questions asked by John.
The Patiala House court on 7 May had deferred the cross-examination of the former union minister in the defamation case filed by him against Ramani after she levelled a charge of sexual misconduct against him.
Akbar was partly cross-examined by senior advocate Rebecca John appearing on the behalf of Ramani. Other senior women journalists were present during the hearing in support of Ramani. Advocate Geeta Luthra appeared on behalf of Akbar in the court. During the course of hearing, Akbar contended that the allegations made by Ramani "maligned" his reputation.
"I filed a criminal defamation complaint against a tweet that Priya Ramani issued last year in October. The tweet was based on an article that the accused had written in Vogue in 2017. The language used in her tweet was deeply offensive and a web of the fabricated lies."
He also asserted that he has a "clean history", to which, Rebecca asked him about the "ideological and political U-turns" Akbar took during his career as a politician. "Were you not associated with Congress in 1989 and shifted your loyalty in 2014 when you joined BJP?" she asked.
She also counter-questioned him on the allegations of sexual misconduct levied by Ramani. Responding to the same, he said, "I don't remember."
Speaking to media persons after the hearing, senior advocate Rebecca John said, "It is not the story of Priya but countless other women who have been sexually assaulted by Akbar. We want to make it clear that women no longer accept sexual harassment at the workplace. I hope it comes out in the testimonies of various witnesses we will produce. In the end, we hope that the judge acquits her."
Ramani had on 10 April pleaded not guilty before the court and claimed trial after the court framed defamation charges against her on a criminal complaint of Akbar. In the last hearing, Vishal had also granted a permanent exemption to Ramani from personal appearance in the hearings to follow.
In February, Ramani was granted bail on a personal bond of Rs 10,000. Ramani was the first woman to accuse Akbar of sexual harassment during the #MeToo campaign. Akbar, the former Minister of State for External Affairs, had filed a defamation case against the journalist for accusing him of sexual misconduct.
The allegations levelled against him forced him to resign from the Union Cabinet on 17 October, 2018.
With inputs from agencies